Which NIH CSR Study Section should I request to review my SBIR/STTR proposal?
Tags: CSR Study Group, federal funding, grants, NIH, SBIR, STTR
You are probably aware that NIH gives you the opportunity to submit an “Optional” cover letter with your SBIR or STTR proposal. Hopefully you know that the cover letter really isn’t “Optional” at all if you want to receive assignment to the most appropriate CSR Study Section to review your proposal. So how do you determine which Study Section is the best one for you to request?
NIH’s Center For Scientific Review (CSR) is the single receiving point for all NIH applications. CSR assigns applications to the Scientific Review Group (aka “Study Section”) deemed most aligned with the content of your research proposal. Recurring Special Emphasis Panels (SEPs) review SBIR/STTR applications, and the reviewers generally make a three year commitment to be available for a Study Section. Accordingly, a panel in one cycle generally contains quite a few members from the previous cycle. A listing of the Study Sections for the previous three SBIR review cycles is available on CSR’s website.
You’ll want to look at the roster for the Study Section(s) that seem most appropriate for your technology. Although the make up of your panel will not be identical, there will be some overlap.
You will want to research the backgrounds and publications of the previous members and their affiliate organizations to provide some perspective on their expertise and how they might view your proposal. If the Study Section is missing a particular skill that you believe is needed to appropriately review your proposal, you are permitted to request inclusion of someone with that specific expertise in your review panel. You may also request that specific individuals or companies be excluded from the review if you note a specific reason for your request. However, applicants are not allowed to ask that specific individuals or companies be included in their review panel.
Note that NIH makes the final determination of which Study Section will receive your proposal, but they generally honor the request made in your Cover Letter. So do your homework, and don’t consider that Cover Letter “Optional”!
Becky Aistrup is a Principal Consultant for BBC Entrepreneurial Training & Consulting